Category Archives: Cookies

Homemade Limoncello with Pistachio Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

There’s reason for celebration because my batch of homemade limoncello is ready, just in time for David’s birthday! I started the limoncello on August 16th and it was ready last Saturday (November 3). The recipe is from Joanne Weir and takes 80 days to cure. Made from lemon peels, 2 bottles of 100-proof vodka and some simple syrup, this limoncello recipe is easy to make, yielding crisp and bright flavors. My Mom has been making it for years so it was fun to carry on the tradition with my first batch here. An Italian classic, limoncello is served ice cold and sipped after dinner. I made pistachio chocolate chip shortbread cookies for something decadent and sweet. They offer a buttery, rich texture and pair well with the lemony, smooth alcohol. The shortbread cookie recipe is from Martha Stewart, with an added 1/3 cup each of the nuts and 60% cacao chocolate chips, both chopped. Be sure to roll the cookie sides in sugar (used turbinado for texture).

Speaking of sugar, you may remember from the Day 40 post that I used organic sugar in the simple syrup, which changed the color from the usual light golden (as shown here with Mom’s May vintage) to a tea color. Thankfully the color lightened considerably, but it is still darker than normal. I’m happy to report that the flavor is uncompromised.

The recipe yields 12 cups of lemony goodness. To make the bottle filing easier, ladle the limoncello into a measuring cup with a spout, place a medium funnel in the bottle and pour slowly, leaving an inch of space at the top. I found the long neck (small and large) limoncello bottles with red-capped corks at World Market; they also sell bottles with a clamp stopper, shown here.  Pier1 has some vintage-looking bottles with corks, and Amazon sells the clamp stopper bottles, plus more.
Store the bottled limoncello in the freezer.

Aside from waiting, the only labor involved is peeling all the lemons on Day 1. To recap from my earlier posts, here’s the abbreviated 80-day limoncello process (click on links for blog posts and recipe):
· Day 1: Add peels from 15 lemons to a 1-gallon jar, add 100-proof vodka
· Day 40: Add simple syrup and more 100-proof vodka
· Day 80: Strain mixture and bottle. Store in freezer and serve ice cold in small glasses

You can buy pre-made tags for your limoncello bottles, or quickly make your own:
o    Use beige heavy card stock, cut strips then pieces of the desired size
o    Cut the edges with wavy lines instead of straight 
o    Hole punch the top, use a highlighter to color the outer edge
o    Make horizontal lines inside the color and add a line around the inside edge
o    Finish it off with some interesting yarn (alpaca/wool yarn shown here), ribbon or colored raffia and if desired, make it long enough to tie a bow at the end knot

Done! Bottle tags are ready for use.

I believe a few friends have made a batch of limoncello after I posted and would love to hear how theirs turned out – friends, are you listening? Always love it when you share. How about you, did you start a batch, or have you made some before? Not just for the holidays, limoncello is wonderful on Valentine’s Day, for birthdays (including yours!) or just because.  Do make some, and please share.

Cheers, and Happy Birthday to my man!

Eat well and share the love!


Moroccan Mint Tea & A Cookie With Many Names

A cookie with many names…….Growing up in the Southwest, we called them Mexican wedding cookies – a melt in your mouth buttery, shortbread-like cookie with a sweet, nutty flavor.  They are also known as Russian Tea Cake, Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop and Viennese Sugar Ball.  In the September 2012 issue of Food & Wine there is a version called walnut snowball cookies; it is just one of several recipes from two friends born in Jerusalem who are chefs and restaurant owners in London, and releasing a new cookbook inspired by their home country.  When I saw the beautifully photographed plate of cookies, I was inspired to get baking and indulge my sweet tooth!  My next thought was how wonderful our family recipe for Moroccan Mint Tea would be with this can’t-eat-just-one cookie.  I was also sold because the recipe uses some fresh vanilla bean, which always promises full vanilla flavor.  The hot, sweet mint tea proved to be the perfect pairing with the cookies.

The walnut snowball cookies tasted even better than I remembered (the vanilla bean really does make a flavor difference), and the recipe is easy to prepare.  I made a few modifications to the F&W recipe: increased oven temp by 25 degrees, added water in order to get dough to come together and used a hand-mixer instead of upright mixer (the first two were probably due to our high altitude and the low humidity) – the recipe below includes my changes.  I also reduced the recipe by half, for a yield of about 20 cookies.  Trust me; you’ll want extras of these addicting little cookies. In fact, this post was supposed to be for last week but we ended up eating most of the cookies (among other photo mishaps) before I got my main photograph!  The plate just didn’t look right with only 6 cookies on it, so I made up another batch the next day and got out the camera again.

My family’s beautiful Moroccan tea pot held countless glasses of mint tea when we were growing up; I am glad I ended with up with this heirloom!  We lived in Kenitra, Morocco (outside Rabat) for a few years in the early 1970’s while my father was stationed there with the Navy; as a young child, it was a cultural experience that opened my eyes in many ways.  We lived for a short time in the middle of the city, in a villa surrounded with high walls.  The large yard held a garden, including mint plants – it was in this garden where we discovered as kids how delicious the honeysuckle flower nectar tasted fresh off the vine.  For her Moroccan Mint Tea, I remember Mom snipping off several sprigs of mint, adding them to the tea pot filled with sugar and tea leaves, and then the fragrant aromas when the hot water was added.

It’s been a while since we made a pot of tea so I had to call Mom to get the official family recipe.  Loose black tea leaves (didn’t have any hand so I got permission to use a tea bag instead; gunpowder green tea also shown in picture with tea bag), sugar and whole mint sprigs are added to the tea pot and hot water is poured over it all.  The mixture steeps for 5 minutes and after a taste for sweetness, it is ready to enjoy.

The Moroccan Mint Tea and walnut snowball cookies will definitely be served together in our house again, and again.

Eat well and share the love!

Moroccan Mint Tea with Walnut Snowball Cookies   (print recipe)
Original Cookie Recipe: Sammi Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi
Cookie Recipe Adapted by: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Makes about 20 cookies (adapted recipe is halved from original; recipe can be doubled)

Moroccan Mint Tea
Serves 2, makes 3 cups

1 tea bag (black tea) or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
3 whole mint sprigs
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups steaming hot water

Add the sugar to a tea pot or serving pitcher; add the mint sprigs and tea, and pour hot water over mixture. Stir a few times to dissolve the sugar and close the tea pot lid (or cover up pitcher). Let steep for 5 minutes. Serve hot; pour into glasses tableside.

Walnut Snowball Cookies
¾ cup walnuts (3 ounces)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
½ cup, plus 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cold water

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts on the baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Add the butter and vanilla to a large glass or stainless steel bowl. Using a hand-mixer beat the butter with the vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. At low speed, mix in the salt, then gradually add the flour, 2 teaspoons water and walnuts and beat just until the cookie dough comes together, scraping down the side of the bowl halfway through.

Roll level tablespoons of the dough into balls and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for about 17 minutes, until they are lightly browned on the bottom; rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Let the cookies firm up on the sheets, about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool slightly.

Put the remaining 2/3 cup of confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Roll the warm cookies in the sugar to coat and return to the rack to cool completely. Roll again in the sugar.

v  Make Ahead: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

A late-summer sale that I couldn’t resist: These zinnias are happy in the indirect sun and continue to bloom. They are a welcome sight to the almost spent flowers and changing colors of Fall around us.

High Fire Danger & Chocolate To Calm My Nerves

My mind is distracted and I feel paralyzed to do anything productive.  It is only the end of March and we are already in high fire danger, which is incredible considering we’ve had over 8 feet of snow in our area since October (remember we were sledding through the snow on our property in January?).  I find myself checking the weather and news reports frequently and I gaze out our front windows to see if the fire plumes have flared up again.  On Monday a fire developed in the Lower North Fork area of Conifer, a neighboring community.  We had powerful wind gusts up to 40 mph that fueled the fire in this beautiful area of Colorado.  It started as a few acres, grew to 100 acres, and by the end of the day the fire had engulfed an astonishing 3,800 acres.

This was the view from our front deck on Monday afternoon; the white on the ground at the bottom right is snow!  As of this afternoon, the fire is 15% contained and over 20 homes have been lost, as well as 2 people.  My stomach is in knots and I feel the devastation in my soul.  I can’t help but think of my neighbor’s loss, the animals and wildlife that have been displaced – or lost – and the stunning mountainsides that have been forever altered. My worry is all-consuming yet I cannot control Mother Nature.  My mind is reeling from the what if questions: what if the winds pick up (they are supposed to this evening) and the embers start a new fire, what if WE have to evacuate – aside from the financial documents, computers, pictures and limited personal effects, how do we choose what to save, what if we experience more fires later in the season…..WHAT IF?!!  So to calm my nerves, I turned to chocolate hoping to provide my troubled mind with some respite.  Chocolate makes everything better, right?

For something chocolate, I decided to modify my whoopie pie recipe for an easy, sweet treat.  They are moist and cake-like, and the perfect companion for some pistachios and chocolate chips.  There is no filling as with the whoopie pies and they are pure comfort for the mind and soul, if only for a bit.  I cut the recipe in half, used coconut oil instead of shortening and made smaller cookies.  The chocolate chips add a gooey goodness and the pistachios offer a nutty crunch with some bright color on top.  Delicious and just what I needed!

Thanks to everyone who has called to check in on our safety, we appreciate it!  For now, life goes on and we hope that the heroic fire fighters can protect our neighborhoods and quickly get this fire under control.  We are in for a long fire season, which forces us to face reality and prepare ourselves and our home with an evacuation plan.  Our thoughts are with the families who have been affected by this tragic fire. 

On a much lighter note: I’ve been nominated!
Saveur magazine is currently accepting nominations for the best food blog awards.  Nominate your favorite blog today (click here) – Hurry, the deadline for entries is March 29 and the winners will be announced April 5!
If you need it, my blog URL is:

Eat well and share the love! 

Chocolate Pistachio Cookies (print recipe)
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies: makes about 12 cookies

Dry Ingredients
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon Dutch cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons black onyx cocoa
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil (naturally refined, organic)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup milk
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios, reserve 1 tablespoon for topping
1 tablespoon semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon 60% cacao chocolate chips

Dry Ingredients:  Sift the flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl or glass measuring cup and add the salt. If you don’t have a sifter, just use a wire whisk and whisk all ingredients together until well incorporated and no lumps remain. Set aside.

Batter:  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Add the egg yolk to a large glass bowl and mix with a hand-mixer on low setting until yolk is fluffy and light yellow, about 30 seconds.  Add in sugar, coconut oil and vanilla and mix on low until well blended.  Turn mixer off and add in the flour mixture and milk.  Blend on low until just mixed; if needed at the end, scrape down sides with a rubber spatula and gently fold batter together.  Add 2 tablespoons pistachios and the chocolate chips and fold in with the spatula. 

Heat the oven to 375º and let the batter sit for 10 minutes – this helps the cookies have a fluffier interior and hold their lift.

Using a small cookie scoop (OXO #60, 2 teaspoons) or a tablespoon, add 6 scoops of batter to the sheet pan, at least 2 inches apart, and sprinkle some chopped pistachios on top; cook for 9 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and repeat with remaining batter.

  • If you don’t have black onyx cocoa (rich and intense flavor, lower fat) substitute Dutch cocoa

Another good distraction for me, watching my bulbs and tulips grow!  I forgot to save the bulb bags and don’t remember which varieties I planted.  I look forward to the surprise.

Mom’s Orange Drop Cookies

When we were kids my Mom baked a lot and experimented with different recipes.  As far back as I can remember these cookies were a special treat from Mom.  Whenever she made them, they always warmed our souls and made our troubles go away.  The cookies had a way of making us forget about that skinned knee, or a bad day at school.  And as an adult the smells wafting from the kitchen let you know that Mom’s in the house when she comes for a visit.  Even today Orange Drop Cookies are a special family tradition and still just as cherished, especially when Mom makes them.   I love the soft texture of the cookie along with the bright flavors from the fresh orange juice and orange zest in the dough and icing.   I’m usually not a big fan of citrus-based cookies because I prefer chocolate, but these cookies hold a soft spot in my heart.  They have become synonymous with Mom’s love.

Mom’s not sure where the recipe came from and thinks it was from their long-ago friends, Bob and Ginny, from Boston.  Usually you see lemon used in cookie recipes but I like this one because they have a fresh citrus taste from the orange and the zest.  I have attempted to lighten up the recipe by substituting the shortening with butter and even coconut oil but they weren’t the same, with messy results.  I decided to leave the recipe as-is and not mess with it, leaving all the warm and fuzzy memories intact.  They are called “drop” cookies because you drop an imperfect scoop from the spoon onto the sheet pan.  They flatten a bit and get some puff in the middle for a cake-like texture when cooked.  While the cookies are still warm, the icing gets drizzled over the top and adds a perfect burst of sweet flavor.

I can’t leave you hanging without a chocolate recipe as well from Mom.  She makes the best chocolate pudding from scratch.  Check out my post about another childhood food memory: Mom’s Chocolate Pudding and Sci-Fi.

One note about my Orange Drop Cookies – at this altitude they refuse to puff up like Mom’s.  They still taste the same but I haven’t been able to replicate the look up here.  Oh well……Have a safe and relaxing Labor Day Weekend.

Eat well and share the love!

Mom’s Orange Drop Cookies
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two                                         
Makes 10 to 12 cookies     350 degrees F

1 1/8 cups flour, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
¼ cup buttermilk (¼ cup milk, ¼ teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar)
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the shortening and sugar with a hand-mixer on low until well blended.  Add the egg and mix well.  Add the remaining ingredients, including the flour mixture, and mix on low until well incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Drop by spoon full (about 2 tablespoons) on sheet pans, spacing about 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown, turning pan around halfway through cooking time.  While cookies are baking, prepare the icing.

Add the powdered sugar to a small bowl. Add the orange juice and the zest and mix well with a fork until glossy.  

When the cookies are done, transfer them to a cooling rack over a sheet pan.  Let cool a few minutes and add a generous 1/2 teaspoon of icing per cookie.  Spread with a mini offset spatula or butter knife.